Arches National park

Arches National Park

We went to Moab, Utah in the spring of 2008, and spent our days hiking in the high plains/desert as well as the deep canyons. We went from cold barren areas where hail and snow fell on us, to the hot desert sun warming us.

The two National Parks, Arches and Canyonlands are parks worthy of your life list of places to see. The parks are different yet so close to each other. Walk among the rocks and you will feel as small as an ant and realize your lifetime is nothing compared to the massive mesas, buttes, fins and spires that soar above you. You are walking through history – from the petroglyph’s to ancient ocean fossils to the pieces of red rock the size of a house clinging on only by gravity.

Yet that snow that fell on us was bringing forth the early flowers of a desert spring. The colors would grab your eyes. The thing that played upon my eyes is how hard it is to judge distance in the high desert. What looks to be a mile across is maybe a 1/4 mile – the colors of the rocks and shrubs/flowers toy with your eyes.

And there is little like slickrock. You feel superhuman as you walk on it. It really is enjoyable to not slide on algae encrusted rocks for once. At home here in the PNW I don’t ever trust walking on rock – it shifts, moves or you slide on it. An awesome hike is Delicate Arch in Arches – the slickrock section of the trail would be a scramble at home, yet there you walk right down the rock like you are on a sidewalk. It is an incredibly harsh, yet awe-inspiring area.

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In the Park Avenue area –

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And a few more –

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Being it was spring of 2008, we only had our oldest son then, and we drove our bio-diesel Mercedes from Washington to Utah. She was a great car for traveling until we one day had too many kids for it!

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This area is simply gorgeous!

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Balanced Rock –

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Balanced Rock from another angle –

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My thought of the trees were…..these things must be freaky at night to see.

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Windows –

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The Fortress –

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The Fortress was neat from pretty much all angles –

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The second Windows arch –

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More of The Fortress –

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The Windows –

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Tree in the arch on the back of The Fortress –

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On the trail to Landscape Arch.

The trail starts open, and passes through fins –

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Varnish –

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Walking through the many fins was a neat experience.

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The trees. I couldn’t get enough of them.

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Right before we reached Landscape Arch the skies opened up and hail started pummeling us. I took a couple of photos as fast as I could and then we ran back as fast as we could. The hail was falling so hard it was stinging like being bitten –

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As we left Devils Garden where Landscape arch is, the weather changed. So we decided to do more hiking and picked Broken arch and Sand Dune Arches.

Winding our way to Broken Arch –

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The hike to Broken Arch was very pretty and no one else was out there. It was very quiet. The hike crosses a long stretch of open plains with great views of many smaller fins and Broken Arch. It then enters an open forest of Juniper and a small wash as you come up to the arch.

The little lizards came out in the sun –

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Kirk under Broken Arch –

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On the way out the trail has a junction near the trailhead where you can go to visit Sand Dune Arch. The trail is nearly all sand so while short gives one a work out. The small arch is tucked in between two narrow fins. It is a cool place to hide on a hot day in the desert.

Sand Dune Arch –

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Ford on the slickrock under Sand Dune Arch –

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The weather was interesting on our trip as I have noted…..while we did get sun it was never truly hot as the wind cooled you down. Late in the day on a lark we decided to go do the hike to Delicate Arch. Due to the storm coming in this very popular hike was rather deserted. Not a bad thing – allowing us to enjoy the unofficial landmark of Utah in relative quiet!

The trail starts on a nicely maintained dirt path that winds up to the base of slickrock. At that point the trail takes off and goes uphill. You walk on slickrock most of the way following rock cairns. While it has elevation gain it feels easy on the body. At the end you come to an arch above you called Frame Arch. If you climb up the rock you can look through and see Delicate Arch with the snow-covered La Sal Mountains in the far distance. After that the trail was blasted out years ago. It is a narrow ledge that you walk upon. I don’t like exposed trails like that but was coaxed across by Kirk to come see the views.

The photos of the area are of course misleading – what looks like a straight stretch is actually a deep chasm, yet due to the slickrock you can walk across the top and go out to the arch.

At the start of the trail –

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With the rain that had been coming down the days leading up to our trip, the colors were amazing. After you cross the slickrock you cross a plateau of sorts and then start the exposed section. Looking over the side at a number of Junipers. There were potholes with water from the morning’s snow/hail –

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Delicate Arch –

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Looking back on the trail going to Delicate Arch – the slick rock is near the top.

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Petroglyphs off the trail, near the end.

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Pulled back view –

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We came back at sunset after hiking Delicate Arch to watch the sun go down near Windows.

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In the far distance the La Sal Mountains stood out in contrast (above).

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With the setting sun, a very long day of hiking wound down as everything turned orange.

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There is so much to see in Arches. Going on the shoulder season means you won’t roast in the heat. But remember: it is high desert, you get dehydrated easily here, even in winter and spring. Go early, or go late in the afternoon, avoid the crowds, and be in awe!

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